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See also: Jiffy


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Origin unknown; said to have been thieves’ cant for “lightning”. Also formerly written "giffy", to which a connection with gliff has been proposed.[1] As a kind of envelope, a genericization of Jiffy bag.



jiffy (plural jiffies)

  1. (colloquial) A very short, unspecified length of time. [from 1780.]
    I’ll be back in a jiffy.
    • 1780, The Town and Country Magazine, vol. 12, p. 88, February 1780.
      Most of the limbs of the law do every thing in a jiffy; but ask what they mean, and they would be as much puzzled, as if you required of them the explanantion of a common act of parliament.
    • 1836, George W[illiam] M[acArthur] Reynolds, “Chapter XV”, in The Youthful Impostor. A Novel. [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, Philadelphia, Pa.: E. L. Carey & A. Hart, OCLC 43033225, page 200:
      "Who says I filched a vipe?" demanded the indignant thief. "Say it agin', and I'll wisit your wittualling hoffice§ [footnote: § The Mouth.] in two jiffies, my queer von! I'se as 'onest a k'racter as hany, and doesn't know vot conweyancing‖ [footnote: ‖ Picking pockets, stealing.] is: d' ye 'ear that?"
    • 1842 December, “the Editor” [Thomas Hood], “More News from China”, in The New Monthly Magazine and Humorist, volume LXVI, number CCLXIV (Third Part), London: Henry Colburn, Great Marlborough St., OCLC 7489261, page 427:
      Of course it's kill or be killed, so at it you go, like Carter and his wild beasts, only in right down earnest, two or three more Tigers joining in, clash slash, and the sparks flying as thick as in a smith's forge, or at a Terrific Combat at the Surrey or the Wells. Such a shindy is too hot to last, and, accordingly, if you're alive at the end of two jiffies, the chance is that you find yourself making quite a melodramatic Tableau—namely, your bloody sword in one hand, a Chinese pigtail in the other, and four or five weltering Tartars lying round your feet!
    • 1864, Ulric De Lazie [pseudonym?; copyright entered by Edmund D. Griffin], Dreams within Dreams; a Plagiarism of the Seventeenth Century; Being, Like Most Visions of the Night, a Medley of Old Things and New, New York, N.Y.: P. O'Shea, 104 Bleecker Street, OCLC 2023537, page 233:
      Here Godfroy nodded pleasantly to Claude, who bowed, and was off— / —In a jiffy* to his men, who greeted him with loud hurrahs. In another jiffy, he was on a barrel, making them an oration. In another jiffy, he had hold of a horse, somehow—for the man had contrived already to make himself so popular in Viot, that he could have anything he liked for the asking. [Footnote: * Jiffy.—Let not the reader scorn the word; it is in Webster. "Jiffy, a moment."—Webster.]
    • 1913, Joseph C[rosby] Lincoln, chapter 7, in Mr. Pratt's Patients, New York, N.Y.; London: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 1650302, OL 5535161W, page 166:
      Old Applegate, in the stern, just set and looked at me, and Lord James, amidship, waved both arms and kept hollering for help. I took a couple of everlasting big strokes and managed to grab hold of the skiff's rail, close to the stern. Then, for a jiffy, I hung on and fought for breath.
    • 2012, Nigel Peace, “The Wilderness”, in 5ign5 of 1if3: A Hilarious Novel of Life and Death, Gobowen, Shropshire: Local Legend Publishing, →ISBN:
      "Plonker!" Harry shouted. Sgt Glum arrived at the double from the newly extended kitchen were the SAS were billeted. / "Sah?" / "Prepare the men, Sergeant, we're on the march in two jiffies." "Yessah! Where to, sah?"
  2. (computing) A unit of time defined by the frequency of its basic timer – historically, and by convention, 0.01 of a second, but some computer operating systems use other values.
    • 1980, Carroll S. Donahue; Janice K. Enger, PET-CBM Personal Computer Guide, Berkeley, Calif.: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, OCLC 6551781, page 283:
      The FOR...NEXT loop for TIME increments by STEP 2 (every two jiffies) for two reasons: 1) the printing of 60 jiffies a second is too fast to read, and 2) the printing of each jiffy takes longer than its incrementations; this would delay the loop, so the printing of TIME$ is slower than it should be.
    • 2015, Johanna Ullrich; Edgar R. Weippl, “Protection through Isolation: Virtues and Pitfalls”, in Ryan Ko and Kim-Kwang Raymond Choo, editors, The Cloud Security Ecosystem: Technical, Legal, Business and Management Issues (Syngress Advanced Topics in Information Security), Waltham, Mass.: Syngress, →ISBN, page 135:
      The number of processed packets per round is limited in dependence of the page size. The processed packets are forwarded to a single queue and are processed for the time of two jiffies.
  3. (electronics) The length of an alternating current power cycle (1/60 or 1/50 of a second).
  4. (physics) The time taken for light to travel a specified distance in a vacuum, usually one centimetre, but sometimes one foot or the width of a nucleon.
  5. (UK) Short for jiffy bag, a padded envelope.


Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ The Vocabulary of East Anglia: An Attempt to Record the Vulgar Tongue of the Twin Sister Counties, Norfolk and Suffolk, As It Existed in the Last Twenty Years of the Eighteenth Century, And Still Exists; With Proof Of Its Antiquity From Etymology And Authority.

Further reading[edit]